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ARTS: Don’t miss The Studio

7 art masters in town for Kampala Art Biennale III         

Kampala, Uganda | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | Something exciting is happening on the Kampala art scene this August. It is the third edition of the Kampala Art Biennale Biennale. And even more exciting is that the world renowned writer, lecturer, art critic and essayist, Simon Njami, is curating it. And finally, Njami has invited seven art masters from all over the world to the revived annual extravaganza. Bili Bidjocka, the 56-year old of Cameroon origin based in Paris, France,  Godfried Donkor; the 54-year old of Ghana origin based in London, UK,  with works in the Smithsonian Institution of the USA,  Abdoulaye Konate; the decorated Malian textile-based artist, and  Pascale Marthine; the 51-year old from Cameroon. Others are the Franco-Gabonian Tayou Myriam Mihindou , Aida Muluneh from Ethiopia, and Radenko Milak from Bosnia-Herzegovinia. These are masters of mediums such as collage, textile, photography, performance, and installation.

Njami’s idea is for the Kampala Art Biennale 2018 to take the ancient master- apprenticeship model of artistic training which he dubs `The studio’. The plan is to have the seven masters set –up studios in Kampala with talented young artists from across the African continent and beyond taking up residences as apprentices in the studious in order to gain knowledge from the masters.

The approach is inspired by the African traditional practice of transmission of knowledge from the older to the young generation for future use. Traditionally,   young artists in the African setting – also in Europe from medieval times- worked  with masters who employed them as apprentices in their studio space  in order to skill them in their craft.

“Our aim is to revitalise ancient practices that are more than needed in our contemporary world,” says Njami.

Bili Bidjocka has already given a workshop about the making of books from traditional Buganda barkcloth, Godfried Donkor who works with collage and painting has worked with young artists archival visual material in Uganda from the earliest times to present, Abdoulaye Konate has shared knowledge on textile as a form of artistic expression, and Pascale Marthine Tayou has an installation.

The culmination of this master- apprenticeship engagement will be an international exhibition in Kampala between Aug. 24 and Sept. 24 in different venues in Kampala city.

The Biennale gains its strength from revisiting the concept of knowledge transmission and togetherness. By allowing young artists to learn from internationally recognised art masters, the festival organizers are consciously building a vibrant and enviable art scene within the region that can sufficiently be part of the wider global art scene. This is the dream of the biennale and gives Kampala the potential to be next art destination of the world.

The novel arrangement has given the KAB 18 Biennale a completely different character from the past festivals. In the Dakar’ Art biennale, pavilions are built for the public, artist, and artwork to dialogue.

The studio approach seeks to grow the nascent art scene in the East African region and Africa, especially in the era where there’s renewed interest in art from Africa and traditional African practices by the West.

The Kampala Art Biennale will officially open on 24th August until 24 September in Kampala. The Festival is organized and presented by Kampala Arts Trust and funded by the European Union.

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